If you’re between 19 and 24 and qualify for the new A2-licence category, there are more bikes than ever to choose from thanks to the recent launches of new machines such as Yamaha’s MT-03 and Kawasaki’s Z300 Ninja. But what if, as is likely, you’re on a tight budget? What are the best value, used A2 machines out there? Here’s our pick of the crop.
Kawasaki Ninja 300
Although the 39bhp, twin cylinder, ‘junior ZX-10R’ is no budget machine – in fact quite the opposite: it’s one of the best performing, most classy and well-equipped sports A2 machines out there – it does benefit from being one of the longest established, too. And that’s great for used buyers. The good-looking, revvy, entertaining and fine-handling Kawasaki was first introduced back in 2012 and has been a class-leader ever since. And that means there are plenty of used examples around with prices starting as low as £2500. Not bad for a bike that’s well over £4K new.
KTM 390 Duke
It’s almost impossible to talk about A2 category machines without mentioning KTM’s stunty, hilarious, 390 Duke. The sassy street single produces an A2 compliant 44bhp and with a lightweight, sharp, lithe and ultra-nimble chassis is hilarious fun (if a little stretched on longer trips). Never the cheapest and well over £4400 new, having been around now for three years means that used prices, with the cheapest available starting at around £3K, starting to come within reach.
Honda’s novel, novice-friendly, 47bhp, three-strong family of ‘New Concept’ (hence NC) middleweight twins (comprising the roadster S, adventure-styled X and Integra scooter) have become European best-sellers thanks to their mix of low-revving, easy versatility, practicality, value and novel, scooter-style ‘DCT’ automatic transmission. Introduced in 2012 they grew to 750cc in 2014 and were uprated and face-lifted in 2016 leaving the originals and particularly the less-popular S, a potentially bargain used buy with used prices as low as £3300.
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
We’ve sang the praises of Kawasaki’s brilliant Ninja 300 twin repeatedly – not least here. But for those on an even stricter budget, its immediate predecessor, the 249cc, 32,5bhp Ninja 250R is arguably even more tempting still. With pretty much the same running gear (the 300 was essentially a restyled, bigger-bore version of the 250R) and not dissimilar performance, the 250R may not be quite as up to date or exciting, but is still a great bike. And with it being sold in the UK from 2008 even bigger bargains can be found. Prices start at £1800.
Launched just after it MT-10 big brother, this 660cc street single, using the 45bhp engine from the XT66 trailie, has always suffered a little from the association with its oddball, unsuccessful larger sibling, but is actually a great bike. Light, nimble, punchy, easy to ride and good looking the original MT-03 (a completely unrelated all-new twin was launched with the same name in 2016) is great value, a tempting buy (with prices starting at just £2200) and durable, too.
Yamaha XV535S Virago
Another oldie but still an A2-compliant goodie – if you can find a clean one. Produced between 1988 and 2004, Yamaha’s lightweight, middleweight cruiser had it all: great custom style with lashings of chrome, manageable, novice-friendly light weight and slim and low dimensions and, best of all, a willing, flexible, 38bhp peach of an air-cooled V-twin engine. Hugely popular, so even though aging today good ones can still be found. Expect to pay £1700 up for a decent one.
Potentially the biggest bargain of this bunch, the GS500 was launched way back in 1989 with an aircooled, parallel twin, 47bhp engine that was even older still. Even so, with attractive, sporting roadster style, a reasonable spec including a steel twin spar frame, versatile and entertaining performance and an overall unintimidating and inexpensive proposition it proved hugely successful, remaining on sale until 2008 and becoming a staple of motorcycle training schools. Today, you can get one for as little as £750 but pay £1200 and it’ll be a good ‘un.
Originally launched in the early ‘90s as a slightly oddball but effective street trailie based around the 47bhp GPZ500 498cc twin, the KLE was misguidedly revived unsuccessfully in the mid-Noughties as a bargain runabout and as a predecessor to the Versys. Deleted in 2007 there aren’t that many about and it is a bit old fashioned. But as a value, A2-compliant, starter bike – and we’ve seen decent low-milers from as little as £1600 – they don’t come much cheaper.
Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
Biggest, ‘Paris-Daker’ style version of Yamaha’s 46bhp, XT660 trail bike family was launched in 2008 and is the closest thing you’ll find in this category to a full-scale adventure bike. As such, the Tenere is tall and roomy (so suits larger riders), good looking and, despite the limitations of its liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine whose lumpy delivery makes motorway miles a chore is more versatile than most. It’s also the best choice of this bunch if you want to do any off-roading. Used examples can now be had for as little as £3700.
Vespa GTS300 Super
Definitive, classic, retro-styled Italian scooter is no cheapie new but its £4500+ tag is justified by its style and spec. The 22bhp four-stroke engine is well within A2 requirements yet is decently brisk around town. It’s a doddle to ride thanks to its ‘twist n go’ automatic transmission and, with plenty of luggage space, practical, too. Best of all, having been around since 2008, there’s plenty of used examples around at prices starting well under £2K.
A note on the A2 licence laws...
Please keep in mind that, while these bikes are A2 licence-compliant, you have to ride a machine on your test with AT LEAST a 395cc engine that makes between 20kW (27bhp) 3bhp and 35kW (46.6bhp), with a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.2kW.
If you're taking your full bike test for an unrestricted licence, you must take it on a bike of at least 595cc, making at least 40kW (54.4bhp). You'll need tobe 19 to take an A2 licence, and 24 for unrestricted.